Who is the new SNP deputy Westminster leader Mhairi Black?

Mhairi Black became the SNP deputy Westminster leader this week, replacing Kirsten Oswald.

Originally elected alongside Ian Blackford, the now 28-year-old Ms Black has taken on the role of a deputy during a week where Aberdeen South MP Stephen Flynn was elevated to the leadership role.

MPs who work with Ms Black praise her as a “fantastic campaigner” and one of the best public speakers in the independence movement.

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But what are the key issues she's campaigned on and what is her background?

Mhairi Black is the new SNP deputy Westminster leader.Mhairi Black is the new SNP deputy Westminster leader.
Mhairi Black is the new SNP deputy Westminster leader.


The Paisley and Renfrewshire South MP only joined the Commons in 2015, taking a seat Labour had held for 70 years.

Winning aged just 20 years and 237 years old, Ms Black became the youngest ever MP to sit in the House of Commons, holding the unofficial title of Baby of the House.

The previous record had been held by British Whig statesman William Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, who was 20 years and 11 months old when elected in 1832.

Her political involvement began at a young age, with Ms Black inspired by the independence campaign of 2014.

Completing a politics degree at the University of Glasgow, she then ran for Parliament, going from working in a fish and chip shop to Westminster.

Her father Alan, a retired teacher, helped to guide her political campaign, seeing off shadow foreign secretary, Labour’s Douglas Alexander.

Since being elected, Ms Black has gained a reputation as one of Parliament’s most powerful orators, frequently going viral, not just among supporters of the SNP.

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Making her maiden speech, she mocked former chancellor George Osborne over abolishing housing benefits for anyone aged under 21.

She joked this led to “the ridiculous situation whereby because I am an MP, not only am I the youngest, but I am also the only 20-year-old in the whole of the UK the chancellor is prepared to help with housing”.

Ms Black then turned her ire towards Labour, stating she wanted to "hold a mirror to the face of a party that seems to have forgotten the very people they are supposed to represent".

She added: "I feel it is the Labour Party that left me, not the other way about." In just five days, the speech had been viewed ten million times.

Political career

When first elected, Ms Black joined the work and pensions committee, where she held the post for two years, and now sits on the Scottish affairs committee.

Since then she has held a range of posts, including being an SNP spokesperson for children and families, pensions and youth affairs, as well as being a deputy spokesperson for disabilities and equalities.

Ms Black is a supporter of trans rights, having spoken out in favour of the Gender Recognition Act, with reports in 2020 she clashed with fellow SNP MP Joanna Cherry over the issue.

Most notably in her new role, the deputy leader is also an outspoken critic of the tactics used by the SNP towards independence, specifically the language used.

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It comes with terms used such as “denying democracy” or comparisons of Scotland to India’s time as a colony.

Asked about the framing on the Untribal podcast, Ms Black said: "I think to be using language like 'colonies' and 'imprison' … that does a disservice to the fact that Scotland was a massive part in colonising other countries that genuinely did suffer massive abuses.

"That's not to say there aren't abuses in Scotland's history, but the dynamic is just not comparable in any sense. When I hear independence supporters – don't get me wrong, there are absolute zoomers who do think that they're being imprisoned by Rishi Sunak personally – I think that a lot of the time it is more laziness in their language."

She has also previously dismissed claims from the Yes campaign that Scots would be £5,000 better off as “mythical”.

Front bench overhaul and deputy leader appointment

A different approach to the language around independence is believed to be a key part of the overhauled SNP Westminster group going forward, offering a more nuanced outlook than that of the previous regime.

Mr Flynn is understood to want more autonomy from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, with Ms Thewliss having pledged to work closer with Holyrood if elected in her failed leadership bid.

After the change in leadership, some MPs believe the move against Mr Blackford was a coup, with more than one telling the Scotsman Mr Flynn’s actions were about “ego”.

However, the same feelings are not extended to Ms Black, who one MP, who supported Ms Thewliss for leader, described as a “ferocious campaigner” and the “future of the party”.

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They told The Scotsman: "She is a fantastic political campaigner and someone with a deep understanding of the issues that matter to Scots. She’s across all the detail and when she speaks, people listen, not just in Scotland.”

Since winning, Ms Black has vowed to work closely with the whole SNP group.

She said: “With the Tories and Labour Party both wedded to Brexit, austerity cuts and democracy denial, it's clearer than ever that independence is the only way to escape the damage of Westminster control and get Scotland back on the path to prosperity."

Within days of being appointed, Ms Black has already written to the Prime Minister asking for clarity on a democratic route to a second independence referendum.

In a statement, the SNP MP said previous questions to Rishi Sunak had gone unanswered. She said: “This time, instead of helplessly hiding behind the Supreme Court, the Prime Minister could actually show leadership and outline exactly how Scotland can choose to exercise its democratic right in this so-called ‘voluntary union’.”

The change comes as an Ipsos Scotland poll for STV this week showed 56 per cent support for independence among decided voters, with don’t knows excluded, with 53 per cent of people saying they would vote for the SNP in the next general election if it were to be used as a de-facto referendum.



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